Thank you Justice Ginsburg

Regarding the decision in a pay discrimination case: Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Inc., No. 05-1074 (5/29/07):

You (and your three colleagues: Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer) did your best.

In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination, she [Justice Ginsburg] said.

In short, the law needs changing because it is difficult to know that one is being paid less than a similarly situated employee of another gender.

Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; only over time is there strong cause to suspect that discrimination is at work, she [Justice Ginsburg] wrote.

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, encourages an adversarial employment relationship (one a typical employee with bills to pay cannot afford) because one would have to be persistently suspicious that their employers are committing pay discrimination against them in order to satisfy the 180 day deadline.

[Lilly] Ledbetter’s policy arguments for giving special treatment to pay claims find no support in the statute and are inconsistent with our precedents. We apply the statute as written, and this means that any unlawful employment practice, including those involving compensation, must be presented to the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] within the period prescribed by statute.

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Student Loans & Sallie Mae

I am growing increasingly concerned about the levels of student loan debt students are owing. It is all the more sad as people are accruing debt to improve themselves and start new careers.

I have given this advice to college students who have asked me for college/graduate school advice: please be prudent about taking out student loans (less is better). The loans must be repaid with interest.

It is not easy to borrow little given the increases in tuition costs. I want the students to owe as little as possible to the gluttonous Sallie Mae.

Regarding Sallie Mae, the large educational loan monster company, I have no respect for this organization. Sallie Mae’s business practices are often in direct conflict with the borrower’s interest.

For example, the rule making it illegal to refinance Sallie Mae’s consolidation loans is nothing less than a demonstration of naked avarice despicable. Sallie Mae’s lobbying for the measure is all the more galling. (Google: Alan Collinge, Student Loans: A Cash Cow for Industry, Ball and Chain for Students).

If interest rates on a home mortgage go down, the borrower can refinance the mortgage to take advantage of the lower interest rate.

My concerns with the rising student loan debt burden and the absolute greed of loan companies like Sallie Mae are the reasons why I have linked to studentloanjustice.org in my blogroll.

ACRI’s Ballot Initiative (Cont.): Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, Missouri

[Note: This post continues my coverage of the American Civil Rights Institute’s ballot initiative proposals for several states in 2008. For coverage on Nebraska, see my post here. Click on the highlighted text, for my posts on “Super Tuesday” and on the initiative’s language.]

I have the demographic information for the rest of the states that the Bradley Foundation’s Ward Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) plans to seek a ballot initiative. The remaining states are Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Missouri. I have added California, the state that passed proposition 209, for comparison purposes.

Colorado (population: 4,301,261 (2000 Census))

Race

Percentage of population

Number

White

82.8%

3,560,005

Black

3.8

165,063

Native American

1.0

44,241

Asian

2.2

95,213

 

Arizona (population: 5,130,632 (2000 Census) [NOTE: high number of “some other race”])

Race

Percentage of population

Number

White

75.5%

3,873,611

Black

3.1

158,873

Native American

5.0

255,876

Asian

1.8

92,236

 

Oklahoma (population: 3,450,654 (2000 Census))

Race

Percentage of population

Number

White

76.2%

2,628,434

Black

7.6

260,698

Native American

7.9

273,230

Asian

1.4

46,767

 

Missouri (population: 5,595,211 (2000 Census))

Race

Percentage of population

Number

White

84.9%

4,748,083

Black

11.2

629,391

Native American

0.4

25,076

Asian

1.1

61,595

 

California (population: 33,871,648 (2000 Census) [NOTE: high number of “some other race”])

Race

Percentage of population

Number

White

59.5%

20,170,059

Black

6.7

2,263,882

Native American

1.0

333,346

Asian

10.9

3,697,513

In all states, there is either a strong or overwhelming White majority. It does not appear that any of them need these initiatives (except, perhaps, to flex the political and social muscles of the majority race).

Causes for Concern & Worry: Exorbitant Airline Executive Compensation; Outsourcing of Aircraft Maintenance

Airline companies are difficult businesses to operate. Despite the challenges airline executives face in the airline industry, airline executives are not begging at street corners for food being rewarded handsomely. The employees, who cut their pay and benefits (wage concessions) for the sake of helping the company regain profitability, do not receive any share of the good fortune. The employees rightfully become offended with being left out:

American Airlines executives should have been celebrating last week during their annual stockholders’ meeting, the first in six years at which they could spotlight an annual profit.
Instead, chief executive Gerard J. Arpey spent much of the session fending off questions from irate employees. After agreeing to accept massive pay cuts in recent years to keep American flying, the employees said they were upset that the carrier’s top officers have been given stock-based bonuses worth millions of dollars. One employee at the meeting called Arpey and other executives “arrogant, greedy, selfish and heartless individuals.

The goal of a firm is to increase the price of its common stock. Simply put, the labor union’s wage concessions helped increase the price of the airlines’ common stock (and the value of airline executives’ stock options), thus, there is little chance that employees will see their former wage rates again. Indeed, employees may be asked for more wage concessions.

The common stock price goal ignores the fact that airline executives cannot operate the airline businesses they manage (imagine a CEO preparing ticket holders to board a flight as a gate agent). Skilled, devoted, and fairly compensated employees are necessary to run the day-to-day operations of an airline: the pilots, the flight attendants, the ground crew, the ticket and gate agent crew, and the aircraft mechanics. [I’m not an expert on airline operations, so I hope I got all sectors of the vital airline labor pool.] All of these jobs require skill and talent, some have the additional responsibility of safeguarding human lives (pilots, aircraft mechanics, in particular).

A disconcerting related issue: airline maintenance is being increasingly outsourced to mechanics outside of the airlines in the United States and also outside the United States to reduce costs (and increase common stock prices). Where does safety of the persons flying in the airplanes fit in the equation?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that outsourcing airline maintenance in and outside of the United States does not pose a safety risk. The Inspector General of the Department of Transportation (DOT) stated in testimony that the FAA has to have more vigorous oversight [DOT OIG testimony].

I am already equivocal about flying (it’s disconcerting to be so high above the ground), so this move to increase outsourcing by airlines without a equally robust inspection system only makes the situation worse. I prefer well-paid, skilled mechanics who work for the airlines for such a vital job.

ACRI’s Ballot Initiative: Nebraska

It seems that Ward Connerly’s Sacramento, California based American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) wants to target several states for its campaign to end “racial preferences” in state government. The states are: Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

I find it difficult to imagine that non-Whites are receiving “preferences” over Whites. Government action is necessary to guarantee that non-Whites maintain their ability to live with dignity as equal human beings. To see what happens in the absence of government action, see a report from the Brennan Center for Justice.

My goal is to address each state that the ACRI is targeting. The first state I will address is Nebraska.

Nebraska does not appear to have an issue requiring this ballot initiative due to Nebraska’s demographic makeup. According to the 2000 Census fact sheet for Nebraska, Whites constitute an overwhelming majority of state residents.

Race

Percentage of population

Number

White

89.6%

1,533,261

African-American/Black

4.0

68,541

Asian

0.9

14,896

Native American

1.3

21,931

Similarly, the universities in Nebraska have small numbers of non-White students. The same is true for Nebraska societal institutions. For example, there is only one Black legislator in the Nebraska Unicameral. That legislator is Senator Ernie Chambers (I-Omaha).

Thus, the initiative really is a foul demonstration of majority power not necessary. But given the demographic reality, I predict the initiative’s success (should the initiative make it onto the ballot).

Pay for Performance?

Philosopher Sin Yu in the third or fourth century stated that “an imperial rater of nine grades seldom rates men according to their merits, but always according to his likes and dislikes.”

While advocates always tout the benefits of “pay for performance” plans for the employee workforce, employees experience the negatives of the “pay for performance” plans.

Given the inherent subjectivity of performance reviews, absent consistent work by management to ensure fairness, “pay for performance” plans are destined for failure.

The GAO, in the end, decided to not give pay raises to about 300 analysts and specialists in January 2006. The agency also split a “pay band,” or salary range, in two and restructured salary caps for many employees. Dozens of GAO employees complained that the new pay system had not been implemented fairly.